In this regular column, our Editor-in-Chief embraces her long-held passion for dining, sharing the unexpected, fascinating and delicious experiences from restaurants, bars, pops-up and cheap and cheerful spots all across the country. Here, she shares her never-fail restaurants that can always be relied on to deliver.
It is comforting to know that there are a raft of eateries and restaurants in Auckland that offer consistently delicious food, great service and a buzzing atmosphere, every single time. These are my failsafe, go-tos for those times when only the best will do.
Always dependable and reliable, from its comforting interior, to its sunny, street-side tables that take in all the local action, to its delicious Italian-inspired cuisine and its friendly staff (most of whom know their patrons by name), Andiamo is a stalwart in every way. It is the sort of destination that those who live in the Eastern Suburbs are willing to move across town to be nearer, and for those in the Herne Bay neighbourhood, is an institution.
There really is not much to say here other than, if you haven’t visited what is quite possibly the City’s most loved eatery, then are you even an Aucklander? Amano continues to deliver exceptional quality food, drinks and service, year after year. There is no other eatery in town that you’ll find as busy for breakfast as it is for dinner. A testament to the creative genius at play both in the kitchen and on the floor, it is nothing short of a gastronomic symphony, by which all other eateries should be measured.
Another gem in Viaduct Harbour’s glistening gastronomic crown, Hello Beasty draws inspiration from Korean, Japanese and Chinese cuisine, and boasts a menu that will take your tastebuds on a journey of discovery. Each dish offers a complex medley of flavours. The potsticker savoy cabbage, water chestnut and tofu dumplings with crispy garlic and soy red chilli dressing are simply exceptional, as is the prawn toast with wagyu.
Located in Britomart, Alma was opened by Jo Pearson (previously of Amano fame) who created an Andalusian-inspired menu that centres on small plates or tapas. While the style of the food here makes it possible to pop in for a quick snack and an extremely delicious tomato, manzanilla, vodka and chilli martini, it’s the long languid meals enjoyed over hours that are my personal favourite. Start with Olasagasti anchovies and tomatoes on toast, some Iberian ham and a mussel escabeche with kohlrabi; follow it up with crayfish tail cooked with tarragon and samphire, a rabbit empanada with cucumber and toum (a type of garlic sauce), and maybe finish with some lamb chops or a rib eye steak. Perfection.
The Blue Breeze Inn
A Saturday stalwart in the Kraus Haus, The Blue Breeze Inn delivers what young and old desire in the form of exceptional dumplings; crayfish crab and tiger prawn, steamed soup with pork and black truffle, har gau, roast duck and chive… through to a vast array of larger sharing plates that are bursting with flavour — all courtesy of the talented culinary mastermind, Chef Che. Denizen held the opening party for The Blue Breeze Inn almost 10 years ago, and I’m proud to see one of the City’s greatest restaurateurs, Mark Wallbank, still holding court at this one-of-a-kind establishment.
A weekend family favourite, largely because my children simply love the butter pasta. Comprising handmade, thick strips of pasta doused in butter and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese, I challenge
you to not scoff the lot yourself, (if the little people let you near their plates, that is). Michael Dearth has done a wonderful job here of keeping the food and the atmosphere consistently good, which is why we return week after week.
This chic yet approachable operation offers a succinct, tasty and original menu alongside an excellent wine list of predominantly natural wines, sake and specialty spirits. Inspired by the concept of an izakaya where eating and drinking go hand in hand, Omni is not tied to a particular cuisine per se, but its menu comprises both a selection of yakitori and small sharing dishes that offer original twists on Japanese and Korean flavours. Fresh and deceptively simple, a raw fish dish sings with its base of creamy, slightly tangy white soy spread. You’ll gobble up the katsu sando with its juicy, handground, panko-coated chicken patty, while the steak tartare bowl is flavoured with ‘nduja and served with gnocco fritto-style crisps. There is also a selection of vegetable-focused dishes, which evolve with the seasons, and a set menu which allows diners to leave the ordering to the experts and try a selection of the full offering.
Yet another resolutely reliable eatery from Savor Group, Azabu, in both Ponsonby and Mission Bay offer Japanese-Peruvian food at its absolute best. Everyone has a favourite dish or two here, with the eateries so popular many diners (like myself) don’t even need to see the menu to know what to order. A tostada (or two), the Dynamite roll, the spicy gyoza and the lamb chops. There is comfort to be found in consistency, after all.